He stood at the bottom of the mountain, having finally made it to its base. The journey here had been long and arduous and he had to lose many close to him to be able to stand at this point. He was alone, in a way he had not experienced before. Not the type of alone that made his heart ache and blood run cold, instead there was a freedom in his lack of company. Yes, there was none of the frivolity or grumpiness of the shared experience that could be relived by the pack another time, there was no deepening of human bonds in this moment. But he was with himself, and that felt enough, more than enough.
The sky was still dark and stars were sparkling in the impossible distance. Only the sound of his slightly raised breathing was what he could hear. He held his breath to see what else was around him. The night was still and felt kind. He smiled to himself, fancy holding ones breath in order to be able to see! With darkness came a loss of identity, with the torch off he was not able to tell where his body ended and the physical world began. Right now there was just him and the stars. Perhaps this is how it has always been he wondered. Looking up into the heavens and letting the endless images of this other suns imprint on his consciousness began to make him feel giddy. The more he looked the more there were. Other suns, like the one that would have to rise today and that gave life to this planet, but millions of miles away. How could we think we are the only life out there he wondered, we are an arrogant lot he snorted breaking the silence.
The path lay ahead, well trodden but empty on this morning. He had brought spare batteries and trusted in his torch. A present from someones name he couldn’t even remember from a previous life when he lived in a bamboo hut in the south pacific. A place where the local men sang powerful love songs, roaring with laughter and weeping with emotion in equal measure until the early hours of every morning, while the women were elsewhere. The stars were just as bright in this place, just the scenery different.
Being the only human in the vicinity gave him a small thrill. It’s rare to find true solitude in a world that encourages growth and demands life. Mornings like these felt rare and precious. Away from the crowd, from language, from the stories and the role playing. There was a sincerity of action, simply try to get to the top of what lies in front. No more, no less.
He had learned the hard way a long time ago, that for the great things in his life he would have do the final steps alone. He was used to this. While others might walk or and carry us to the threshold of where we want to go. Only we can walk the final steps. So many others he was used to seeing, sitting waiting. Waiting for their chosen summits to bow their great heads down to them and sweep them off their feet to the top. But they still waited, getting cold and increasingly frustrated in the lost time and their perceived birthright never came and found them. These folk were the dangerous ones, the ones who would trick you into waiting with them and seduce you into their ways of thinking, angry and dissatisfied. What was so shocking is that there were so many of them, camped out endlessly on the crossroads of their lives, map in hand but refusing to budge. Was it laziness or fear? Maybe the two are the same, who knows?
Either way he was here, and this is where he wanted to be. The more he lived the more he felt an inner compass guiding him on. This was not the first mountain he was to experience in his life and unlikely to be the last. Just another of a seemingly endless range of ups and downs, stumbles and strides. This to him was life, the struggle, the edge of what was possible. Living somehow felt ever more precious when there was an element of danger to it. Over time he had begun to realise that it didn’t need to be physical danger to exhilarate him any more, it was an even more lethal perilousness, that of who he thought he was. Here was the real challenge, to risk his hard fought image again and again. And have the courage to return to the world of men and their crossroads, bloodied and beaten, yet smiling and humble. Now that was something worthy of fear.
Looking up, he saw a glimpse of feathery dark blue light streak across the sky. There was not to be long to make it to the top for sunrise. If he didn’t, then that was fine, it would be beautiful anyway. But these are worthy experiences and worth at least attempting. The outline of the mountain softly pressed against where was once utter unfathomable night sky, its features began to surface from the deep emptiness. As his eyes began to make sense of where he was, a familiar sense of deep separation returned. With the light his body and that of the earth were discrete beings again, it was time to move.
Snow and gravel crunched underfoot as he began. It was still too dark to really see the way so he relied again on his touch and torch. In these moments to think only of the summit was never helpful, it turned the present moment into something resembling a death march. Each step simply a means to an end. Bitter experience had taught him that this mental anguish had no value whatsoever. Each new mountain, each new summit a chance to retrain his human cultured mind to see each step, each crunch, each movement as something of value, part of a greater patchwork of existence. Celebrating only the summit had increasingly begun to feel simply dishonest.